Scope - Depression among HK older adults

Aging population in Hong Kong

In 2018, 17.3% of HK population was aged 65 or above. The percentage of older population is projected to reach 31.1% by the year of 2066, termed as a super-aged society. The life expectancy of male is projected to increase from 81.3 in 2016 to 87.1 in 2066, whereas in female is projected to increase from 87.3 in 2016 to 93.1 in 2066. The elderly dependency ratio will increase from 231 in 2016 to 674 in 2066.

Depression in older adults in Hong Kong​​

About 10% of the elderly population in Hong Kong have depressive symptoms, where the prevalence can even reach 20% when it comes to older adults living in nursing homes or are cognitively impaired. The prevalence of major depressive disorder is 5% in community and 8% in nursing homes, as of 2011. Factors such as stress, health problems and a lack of social engagement usually contribute to the vulnerability of older people and cause higher risks of elderly depression or other major illness.

Societal Impact of Depression​

Other than increasing economic cost incurred by people with depression on lost productivity and mental healthcare provision, people with depression might also commit suicide and/or deliberate self-harm. In Hong Kong, 53% of the people who committed or attempted suicide were found to have major depressive disorder.

Current public healthcare provision

Despite an extensive network of registered medical practitioners (including psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses), the medical staff to population ratio was 1:511 in HK in the year of 2018. The public healthcare system is under great pressure given the challenges of an aging population.

Policy priorities​

Facing the challenges, the HKSAR government came up with the following policy priorities back in 2018.

  • Strengthen the community care and support services for the elderly by providing additional service quotas
  • Implement a new scheme to set up day care units for the elderly at qualified care homes for the elderly (RCHEs)
  • Implement existing schemes to encourage elderly persons’ participation in community affairs
  • Promote the building of age-friendly communities at the district level

Census and Statistics Department of HKSAR (2017). Hong Kong Population Projections 2017-2066.​